Suddenly, you find yourself being the teacher, babysitter, and all around domestic goddess of “pandemic-quarantine central”. No playdates, no playgrounds, no activities and no rest for you. You need to become a ninja of self-care!
Your mental health is more important to how your kids get through this time (and how your marriage thrives through this challenge) than what you put on the dinner table or how clean you keep the house.
Here are 5 incredibly quick and effective ways to dial down your stress level.
1.Essential Oils. If you’re already a fan of essential oils, just use whichever ones you love. I’ll suggest Lavender as a great go-to, it’s the main oil for releasing tension and anxiety and it also smells just heavenly. You can diffuse it, even if you just put a drop on a tissue in a few places you walk by regularly. My favourite thing is to rub a drop or two between my palms and then run my hands through my hair. I got that trick from a friend and it works great, without making your hair oily or anything.
Besides Lavender, I really love Frankincense, which is an oil that connects you to your own inner wisdom and dispels dense or negative energy. If you want to apply essential oils to your skin, they need to be diluted with a carrier oil, like olive oil or coconut oil. Just add a drop or two to a teaspoon of the carrier oil and then you can rub it on wherever you like. Take 2 minutes in the bathroom to massage your feet or run a few drops through your hair – you’ll feel like a new woman!
2. Breathe. Think about it, breathing is right up there with biting on a bullet when it comes to managing the intense pain of childbirth so it can do wonders for emotional pain if you know what to do.
This particular exercise is one I learned from of my favourite authors, Brené Brown. She does it sitting at her desk with a pencil and paper, and you can do that too, or you can draw with your finger on a steamy bathroom mirror.
Make 4 dots in the shape of a square and slowly trace between the dots, breathing in and out through your nose (very important) while counting slowly to 4 between each dot. The reason to breathe through your nose is that it automatically restricts the flow of oxygen so you don’t hyperventilate, and building up carbon dioxide in our blood actually initiates your body’s relaxation response reflexes. Every little bit helps, right?
3. ESR (emotional stress release) is a move that comes from the world of Touch for Health and Brain Gym. Think about whatever is the most stressful feeling for you at this very moment – maybe resentment, frustration, aggravation or disappointment. Rate the intensity of that feeling from 1-10 for yourself and make a note of it somewhere.
Cover your forehead very lightly with one hand, as if you were checking for fever. With that very light touch, close your eyes and play yourself a little movie clip of whatever is making you feel stressed. Run about 20 seconds of that movie for yourself and really get into the feeling.
Really visualize what’s bothering you in an active scene – the chaos in your home, or people being noisy, maybe disrespectful. Maybe it’s about your step kids coming to visit from their other home where they are not being careful about social distancing.
Now, run that movie again. Just really look at it, see the people involved, feel the feeling as intensely as you can.
When you’ve done that, play the movie again but insert a positive ending; make it all turn out the way you want. See your kitchen all clean and tidied, see the kids quietly doing their work or playing together without fighting. See a bright white light all around your home protecting you all from viruses. Just watch this part of the movie, the happy, desired outcome, with everything the way you want it to be.
When you’re ready, open your eyes and take your hand away. Check in with yourself – what number would you give your level of intensity around that emotion now? It should definitely be at least a little lower than before. If you want to get it down more, just do another round or two.
4.Thinking Caps /Brain On. This is also from Brain Gym. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently grasp the outside of each ear up near the top and then pull outwards and unroll the cartilage. Move down slightly and do it again, pulling and unrolling all the way down to your earlobes. When you’ve done the whole ear all the way, go back to the top and do it again. Go around 3 or 4 times.
Your ears are a hologram for your entire body, according to Chinese medicine, so you’re really massaging all the acupressure points of all your organs by doing this. This exercise is amazing for releasing tension in your neck, where many of us store our stress.
Note: I’ve done this right in front of people many times and nobody has ever noticed so you don’t even need a private place to do it!
5.Meditation. It doesn’t have to be long to be really effective! This exercise I learned from my friend Duda Baldwin, Buddhist teacher and life coach who was a guest in season 2 of my Essential Stepmom podcast. She does a delightful little meditation that you can do anywhere with your eyes open, alone or in front of anybody.
Just look around you slowly and calmly, and name what you see with a single word, either shape, colour or material:
“Chair “…”red”… “cloth”…”wood”…”phone”…”cup”…”wood”…”black”…”bowl”…”window”…”orange”.
Don’t be fooled by how simple this seems; it really serves to break your pattern of thinking and get you out of your head for just 60 seconds or so, long enough to do a quick ‘refresh’ on whatever tab you have open on the screen of your mind.
The biggest challenge is to actually DO these things when you need them! I suggest keeping a quick reference list on your phone that you can look at when your higher self is trying to get your attention. Even better, experiment with setting alerts to remind yourself to take 2 minutes a few times a day and give yourself the grace of a new start.